KUSA - There isn't much Naki'o, a 2-year-old red heeler mix, can't do. He just might do it a bit differently than your average canine.
Two years ago, Naki'o was abandoned in a foreclosed home in Nebraska. He lost all four of his paws to frostbite before he was rescued by Colorado's All Aboard Animal Rescue.
As soon as Christie Pace, a veterinary technician who lives in Colorado Springs, saw Naki'o's photo, she knew she had fallen in love.
"When I got him he was 8 weeks, 4 pounds, and he was missing patches of fur because he had mange. But, he was just such a happy guy," Pace said.
She knew Naki'o was missing all four paws, as well as part of his tail and nose, but she also knew she would be able to find a solution down the road.
"As he started getting older, I started seeing changes and he started limping and going three-legged. That's when I knew I needed to do something," Pace said.
She says it was a blessing when she discovered OrthoPets, a Denver-based company, and the only in the world, to design and make custom animal prosthetics.
Veterinary Anesthesiologist Dr. Patsy Mich with Orthopets knew Naki'o's situation would be a challenge.
"He can't really feel the ground at all with any of his four limbs, which is different than most patients. His contact to the earth is entirely mechanical," Mich said, "So the challenge was to create the world's first dog with four prosthetic limbs."
Naki'o has a can-do attitude. Obstacle? He can step over it. Challenge? Bring it on. So he jumped into his prosthetics, and his rehabilitation training, with all four paws.
At first, he would collapse as he was learning to walk with his prosthetics, but he never gave up. Now, Pace says, he runs and plays with her other dogs without a care in the world. He even gets excited when she takes the prosthetics out to go for a walk.
Pace has now made it her mission to rescue other disabled animals. Naki'o is the 'spokesdog' for her rescue organization, Naki'o's Underdog Rescue.
"Love has no boundaries. I love to help any animal with a disability and show the world how capable they are. Now that he has prosthetics I don't think he realizes he's different at all," Pace said.
Even Dr. Mich has taken a lesson from the world's first bionic dog, "What I've learned personally and as a doctor is courage. My patients teach me every day that you just have to take the next step, literally, and boldly."
Naki'o is also up for an award as the 'Emerging Hero Dog' at the Hero Dog Awards. You can vote for Naki'o beginning on May 7 here.
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